How to See New York City for the First Time
If you’ve never been there before New York City can be overwhelming for a lot of reasons. Between the sheer number of human beings all in one place, the infinite number of things to do, the unbelievably frenzied pace, the noise, the chaos, and the fact that none of it ever seems to stop, being there can feel more like a job than a vacation. Here, our members sort out the things every first-timer should know, from how to get around to how to take a break.
How to get around the city:
One of the first things every newbie to the city should know is how to get around. Once you have that more or less figured out, everything else will be a lot easier.
“It’s a huge city, but the subway is quite safe and easy to use once you get the hang of it. There are information booths on all subway stations. Ask.”
“I've used both buses (not the hop-on buses) and the subway to get around, though I've mainly walked and walked.”
“First tip is to buy yourself a Metrocard for use on the subway and buses. Get yourself a 7-day unlimited card for $32 (including the cost of the card) and you can ride the subway/buses as much as you wish. if you use the subway 13 times, it pays to get the 7-day card vs. paying as you go. Study the subway map as someone noted. The subway is a very inexpensive and easy way to get around the city.”
“The one thing you absolutely do not want in NYC is a car: public transit is good, traffic is not, and parking fees will only add to your expenses.”
“You certainly don't need to hire a car in Manhattan - the traffic is pretty nightmarish and I can't imagine parking is easy. Take the subway, or the iconic yellow taxis if you need which are pretty reasonably priced by big city standards.”
“The largest yellow taxi carries 5 passengers, but most carry 4. nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/faq/fa...”
“There is a 52USD flat rate charge for taxis from JFK to Midtown, to which you must add tip and possibly tolls: panynj.gov/airports/jfk-taxi...
I always stay in Midtown. The last time I used a taxi, in 2013, I gave the driver 60USD and he was perfectly happy with that. Last year I used the Airtrain and then the Long Island Railway, which is a heck of a lot cheaper (around 12USD, as I recall) and very easy indeed. I'll be doing that again later this summer. But I took a taxi from JFK on my first few trips to NYC and do understand why you might want to. Make sure you go to the taxi dispatcher in Arrivals (it's very obvious) and wait your turn for a proper yellow taxi. Do *not* take up any offers made by the rogue taxis who hang around.”
“I save by taking the train in from JFK - take the Airtrain from all terminals and connect (Jamaica) to the LIRR into Grand Central Terminal at West 34th Street (midtown). I believe the train connection is $12.-$15.”
Some basic attractions you should hit:
While everyone wants to see a few “Off the beaten path” locations, it would be a shame to come to New York and not see at least a few iconic attractions. Here, Trippy members tell us about their favorites:
“Divide and conquer is your best bet. One day I'd devote to the hop on/off double decker bus - great way to see the city and get some insight. You can get off at locations which may interest you, stroll a bit and get back on and continue on. I'd devote one entire day to Times Square area, Theaters, etc., One day to walk and stroll through Central Park and visit the MOMA and Museum of Natural History. Another day to visit Battery Park, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Financial district, etc.”
“I love walking, so I really enjoy Central Park. I also love Greenwich Village. Ellis Island was, for me, very personal and very moving.”
“I do recommend that you walk the High Line if you can. It's a very pleasant walk indeed, well away from the city hustle and bustle. Do take the free Staten Island ferry for views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan shoreline.”
“If you need to chill, Central Park is wonderful. Grab a sandwich from a deli and go picnic and people watch for a couple of hours.”
“I especially recommend the Lower East Side Tenement Museum if you want to get an idea of the city's past (but be sure to book in advance). And the Top of the Rock, both by day and at night.”
“Also, leave time in your schedule just to wander. I like the West Village and Meatpacking District and of course Greenwich Village is a must!”
“Central Park is just perfect in spring! I just got back from NY and Central park is my favorite place to be. Also, Staten Island Ferry is very cool. It is free, so there is no reason not to go.”
“If you plan to visit the Statue of Liberty/Broadway shows/9/11 Memorial Museum, you need to try to get tickets NOW. They sell out months in advance.”
“Remember that NYC includes not only Manhattan but 4 other boroughs. Take the train into Brooklyn and explore DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights/Boerum Hill/Brooklyn Bridge Park & the Brooklyn promenade and the great views of the NYC skyline. Then walk the Brooklyn Bridge back towards the city. Central Park/Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park/Prospect Park (in Brooklyn) are great places to go and wander around. -Times Square is a must see at night for a first-time visitor. You don't need to eat there however. Head further up towards Hell's Kitchen for some of the best places to eat in NYC.”
“Museums are wonderful...or Central Park...Ellis Island...Little Italy...East Village...”
“Visit Empire State Building (once oldest and still best), Time Square and shops, Central Park, Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, double decker Washington bridge/Manhattan Bridge/Brooklyn Bridge, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, Coney Island.”
“SNL tickets are only available by lottery the August of the upcoming year. For the 2016-2017 season tickets were drawn in August of this year. 2017-2018 season tickets will go into the lotto August of 2017.
NYC has never ending possibilities. I find something new to do each time I visit. I usually stay on Broadway as we're into theater and never tire of taking the red bus tour - a good way to meet other tourists. We usually get off at Battery Park and walk back - a good 3+ hours of leisure stroll which will take you through Little Italy, China Town, Financial District and other fascinating neighborhoods.
Just taking a leisure couple of hours stroll through Central Park is a good way to meet people and can be gorgeous depending on the season.
Whether you get to actually play at Rucker Park is quite dependent on how busy it is. It is rather clique and if it's busy (most times) you might just end up sitting and watching as they take their games seriously. Also, there may be an actual competition going on.”
“After Rucker Park I'd recommend taking the 3 to Sylvia's, Red Rooster or the Harlem Shake. All are very friendly and social. MOMA is great & the Brooklyn Museum and gentrified area around the Barkley Center are young with a lot to see and do.”
“If you enjoy live music- head for Greenwich Village.”
“A few ideas: don't miss Central Park and the wonderful Metropolitan Museum, take the free Staten Island ferry for excellent views of the city skyline (and distant ones of the Statue of liberty), walk the High Line, visit Times Square and go up the Empire State & 'Top of the Rock' if you want.”
“Free places: Central Park, Staten Island Ferry, Metropolitan Museum, The High Line, St Paul's Chapel, The Irish Hunger Memorial”
“As for top 5 places, these are the top iconic must see/do attractions in NYC, expecially first timers.:
1. Empire State Bldg Observation Deck. This offers unparalleled views of the city and kids of all ages love it.
2. American Museum of Natural History. Near the top of every list, this museum is a magnet and its Dinosaur Halls are amongst the best in the world, if not the entire world.
3. Statue of Liberty. A visit here to see lady liberty has to be one of those iconic things to see and do.
4. Metropolitan Museum of Art
5. Rockefeller Center”
“- Staten Island ferry gets you a view of the Statue of Liberty at a distance.
- Rock Center
- South Street Seaport/Bryant Park
- Grand Central (there is also a pretty good food court on the lower level.)
- Take the subway to High Street/Brooklyn bridge in Brooklyn. Check out the view from the Brooklyn Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge towards the city.
- Central Park.
- Xmas lights at the major department stores (Saks/Bloomingdale's/Macy's/Lord & Taylor/Bergdorf/etc.)”
“Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; Empire state building; Rockefeller center; I enjoyed the baseball at Yankee stadium (but I'd never been before as I am a limey!) Chinatown”
What to expect of New York City:
As you’ll see from the minute you arrive, there are some things New Yorkers just sort of . . . know. Like how quickly to walk, how to avoid traffic, or even how to plan the day. Here, our members fill you in on a little of those secrets!
“I love NY, none other like it - only behind Hong Kong which I think is like NYC on steroids!”
“New York is really not that much different to all the big world cities. Just be careful with your possessions and be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
“I felt much the same on my first visit. NYC is not somewhere I would have chosen to visit but I have to do so at least once a year. I find the city huge, noisy, crowded and sometimes rather grubby but I don't feel actively unsafe there. I use normal city commonsense but, because I am a solo middle-aged female, am probably more wary about where I go and what I do than I might be if I had a companion. I trust my instincts.”
“I would say, relax and enjoy. NYC is possibly my favourite city but it is a bit manic and can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you're not used to big cities. It's best not to fight it but just let yourself be a bit swept up in it all.”
“If you are rather anxious, I suggest that you avoid traveling during the morning or afternoon rush hour. Get started after 9:00 AM and be in a museum, park or site from 4 until 6 in the afternoon. Study the MTA map and locate the sights you must see in advance. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time, enjoy!”
“- Get an early start every day so that you can maximize you time in NYC. Get out and just explore many of the places already mentioned.
- Depending on your budget, you can eat at "high end" places or at places that won't "break the bank." NYC has loads of places to eat within your budget.
- Ask if you feel you are unsure where to go/walk/etc. Just stop someone and ask. Especially if you are on the subway. You can't get lost. But don't just "think" you are going in the right direction if you are not sure.
- NYC is a busy city. People walk fast. Order (at stores, etc.) fast. Etc. Be prepared for that.
- Check the weather 2 days before you arrive so that you pack the right attire.
- As noted, give yourself time to wander. Don't have a schedule that has you running from A to B to C.
- Make a list of places that you have to see/visit, and would like to see. Start there.”
“I live only 3 hrs. from NYC. I still go in for small doses. I like to concentrate on one area, section, event, etc. Too much to do all at once. Try to keep your focus.”
“Some months are much more expensive than others(September is expensive, February-not as much.)”
“You certainly cannot be a 'real New Yorker', in just the same way as a visitor to Paris cannot be a 'real Parisian'. Accept that fact and enjoy exploring the city as a visitor.”
“big city precautions apply like watch your pockets, keep to busy areas - but even the subway from Little Italy at midnight was no more intimidating than London.”
“Remember that almost every meal (other than fast food & takeaways) has to have a tip added 20% or so, and that prices on display in shops do not include taxes (they are added at the till). The same applies to your accommodation: taxes will be added when you checkout.”
“Book tickets for attractions such as the Statue of Liberty/9/11 Museum/Broadway shows in advance. They can sell out at any time.”
“When using the subway:
- Let the people off the train before you get on.
- No bags, etc. on empty seats.
- When exiting the station, don't stop at the top/bottom of the stairs trying to get your bearings.
- When using escalators(anywhere), stay to the right going up or down. The left side is the "express' side and people will be walking up/down.
- Have your Metrocard out before getting to the turnstile.”
Where to Stay in New York City
“Note that the majority of apartment rentals for less than 30 days are illegal in NYC and some are outright scams.”
“Airbnb/apartment is not a good idea in NYC. Legal issues and scam issues. Do not go that route.”